• Alex Thomas

Why the term “Black Owned” Business? Does it need to be that specific?

I have seen this question in the past and before I responded I decided to try to break the question down a little further. Some may read this question and believe the person asking it genuinely does not understand why the term “Black Own Business has to be that specific, but then there’s another perspective here. Their thought may be if we are all Americans why do black businesses need to be singled out? We don’t refer to other businesses as Asian owned business, Caucasian owned business, Latino owned business, Native American owned business, Eastern Indian owned business, West Indian owned business etc. So, why does the term black owned business need to be so specific? I planned to list a bunch of different reasons why, but I decided to do something a little different. Let’s enter a time machine and go back to a specific time in the history of our country. Now before you assume, I’m going back to 1492 or 1503…We won’t be going back that far. We won’t be discussing slavery today, at least in depth anyway…I may mention a thing or two about it 😊. We will be going to the years 1880-1921 and stop in the city of Tulsa Oklahoma. Some of you may know where I’m going with this.


Black Owned Business Bloom

In the late 1800’s most African Americans were looking for work. America’s original sin of slavery was “abolished” (I use that term loosely….lol) but as many African Americans began migrating to different parts of the country, barely any were getting jobs. During that time America was crazy about oil and besides just owning land, the country’s rich were looking to obtain more wealth in oil. In Oklahoma there was a discovery of oil and in 1897 Oklahoma got its first oil well. The discovery of the oil in Oklahoma helped the black community obtain jobs and provide for their families. Although we still couldn’t shop at the non-black stores or dine with the white community, I believe this was actually a good thing. What in the world do you mean it was a good thing?! Well, because we couldn’t spend our money at the “White Only businesses” we spent our money in our own community and over time that money circulated and compounded thus increasing the value of the “black dollar.” Then Black Wall street was born.


Black Wall Street and the trickle-down effect

Black Wall Street was the first time, as a community, that we saw what can happen when we work together for our own benefit. There were hundreds of businesses and we owned our own land. Actually, we owned more land as a community in 1916 than we do now…remember that line. So, the community in Tulsa was doing really well and our communities began to expand not just in Oklahoma, but in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Florida. To some, this was seen as a threat. How could a people who have been looked at as second-class citizens start building economies in their neighborhoods that are just as good or even better than other areas across the U.S? This brings me to the unfortunate year of 1921.


1921


This is the year that as a community we were scarred, and it only went downhill from there. As some may know the law was abused much more in this time than it is now. Well, let’s say it was more abused in plain sight than it is now. Basically, a white woman lied and said that a black man raped her. Similar to the situation with Emmitt Till, white men got angry and decided to take matters into their own hands. So… a group of angry white men rallied up the KKK and began to lynch and murder African Americans in Tulsa Oklahoma. They burned down black businesses and homes. Women were raped and killed and so were their kids. As a result, the police arrested some of the black community members and abused them, INSTEAD of apprehending those committing the actual crimes of arson and murder. I don’t want to give further details here; we all get the picture. Now that we understand a small portion of this important moment in history, we can come back to 2021, but on our way back let’s take note that one of the other worst times for the black community in America was during the Jim Crow era.


But…that was a long time ago?

In the 1960’s 40% of African Americans owned businesses, but that number began to decrease gradually. Especially after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in 1968. That was 53 years ago. This was the year that the wealth gap began to widen, and the wealth gap only expanded since then. Right before his assassination, Dr. King spoke about the U.S giving out land grants to Europeans way back in the day. Why is this important? Keep in mind, one of the keys to wealth is ownership and having equity. Why do you think there is such an importance placed on owning your own home, or business, land, real estate, etc. After the traumatic events history has forced on the black community, a huge portion of us don’t think about the way we spend our money and where we spend it, or building up our communities and addressing the various traumas and issues that plague our people. If we do not start thinking about where we land on the totem pole of society and what we can do to fix it, we could become the lower class in the U.S. permanently. There’s a study out there that states that if we, the black community, continue on the current economic path that we are on the average wealth in the black family will be $0.


So…Why the term “black owned” business?

I can see that if you look at the term from the perspective of “we are all Americans”, it can seem a bit off. I would also say that if you are looking at things from a general perspective, you most likely are not considering history or feel it’s irrelevant. Well, the more we ignore history, the more vulnerable we are to repeating it, forgetting it, or worst of all, not remembering it accurately. Times have changed and most of us as Americans are learning, growing and trying to take our own destiny’s into our own hands and that’s a great and beautiful thing, but let’s be honest if a woman all those years ago did not lie, Jim Crow was non-existent, and there was no redlining, our communities would be in much better shape.


However, that’s only 50% of the problem…there’s more


So back to the original question. Why do we need to be so specific? Part of being specific is also a cry to the black community. We are spenders and everyone knows that. We have been going to hair stores, nail stores…you name it, but the owner of these stores are from a different demographic. We buy designer clothing, but if we go to some stores in Italy, they wouldn’t want to sell us their clothing in person. We spend so much and we aren’t spending in our own communities as much as we do in others. We have become so accustomed to it that we do it without a second thought. Collectively the black community spends over 1 trillion dollars a year. Think about that for a second. Think about if the majority of that money stayed circulating in the black community.


So, “Black Owned” business is a term that should be focused on and supported. Collectively as a community we need to pivot our thinking and be intentional with our support. For those who may not understand, please consider history as your guide. Historically there were things that were very wrong that played a role. Not just for the state of our community but also it contributed to the wealth gap we see today. I believe that if all communities are doing well in the U.S and diversity is accepted and encouraged, our country’s economy would be far greater than it is. I hope that our time travel to the late 1800’s to late 60’s helped to shed some light on why the term black owned business is and needs to be specific. Also as stated earlier this blog was not written to blame or point fingers. History teaches us what we can improve on, and where we went wrong. It’s up to us to learn and do better collectively. If you found this post helpful, please feel free to share. Also, if you’re new to Millennial Oaks please subscribe 😊.



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